Eisai and University College London (UCL) said today their researchers will team up to develop new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and related disorders in what the partners said was the first joint-research collaboration between a UK public institution and a pharmaceutical company.

Researchers will work to identify and validate novel drug targets, then evaluate them in proof-of-concept clinical trials. The collaborations marries Eisai’s assay development capabilities, medicinal chemistry expertise, and other drug development know-how with UCL’s research and translation efforts; the partnership is expected to include scientists and clinicians at UCL’s new Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre in Queen Square, London.

UCL will receive undisclosed milestones payments as projects progress, as well as royalties on therapies successfully brought to market, the partners said.

Eisai and UCL will form a joint Therapeutic Innovation Group of scientists from both partners with the principal function of facilitating and coordinating the discovery and assessment of the targets, as well as overseeing co-development of new research areas.

Alan Thompson, M.D., dean of UCL’s faculty of Brain Sciences, and program director for neurological disorders at UCL Partners Academic Health Science Centre, will co-chair the joint steering committee governing the group, along with Lynn Kramer, M.D., president of Eisai’s neuroscience unit,

Eisai said the collaboration marks its latest effort to expand its UK presence into a major center of Eisai’s commercial and growth strategy.

The company has one of the kingdom’s largest dementia research units, with about 200 of its 500 UK employees now employed in R&D-related positions across multiple therapeutic areas at Eisai’s £100 million (approximately $161 million) Europe-Middle East-Asia headquarters in Hatfield. Also, in September, Eisai announced plans to transfer global manufacturing for its new epilepsy drug Fycompa® (perampanel) to the UK, where the first-in-class treatment was launched that month before its current sequential launch across Europe. Fycompa won FDA approval in October.

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